Purdue expert: Replacement ref controversy could be good for NFL

September 26, 2012  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The mostly negative publicity surrounding the use of replacement referees for professional football games just might have an upside for the NFL, says Richard Feinberg, a Purdue University professor of consumer sciences and retailing.

The NFL is in a labor dispute with its regular referees, so the league has been using replacements since the start of the preseason game schedule. Three weeks into the regular season, the refereeing has generated lots of criticism, including over a controversial call at the end of Monday (Sept. 24) night's game that led to a Seattle Seahawks win over the Green Bay Packers.

"It's a case of all publicity is good publicity since we know that repetition increases awareness and interest," Feinberg says. "Although the information is negative, more people will be attracted to watching games. Some of these people may never have seen an NFL game before. Some occasional viewers will watch longer. And all of them will talk about what they saw. That's good for viewership."

It's also the train wreck mentality, he says.

"People will be attracted to NFL games because they anticipate seeing blown calls and furious coaches," he said. "This should increase viewership at the same time the viewers are lamenting how bad it all is. People want to do what other people are doing. The fact that everyone is talking about this means that if you are not doing the same, you are out of it. And people don't want to be out of it."

Feinberg says that even when a team and its fans think they've been robbed, there can be a positive.

"It builds brand cohesiveness," he says. "Fans are more strongly backing their team. This may increase sales of tickets and merchandise."

Writer: Judith Barra Austin,, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu

Source: Richard Feinberg, 765-491-5583, xdj1@purdue.edu

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